LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
(director: Len Wiseman; screenwriters: Mark Bomback/based on a story by Mr. Bomback and David Marconi; cinematographer: Simon Duggan; editor: Nicolas de Toth; music: Marco Beltrami; cast: Bruce Willis (John McClane), Timothy Olyphant (Thomas Gabriel), Justin Long (Matt Farrell), Cliff Curtis (Bowman), Maggie Q (Mai), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Lucy McClane), Kevin Smith (Freddy, computer genius known as Warlock); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Michael Fottrell; 20th Century Fox; 2007)
“It is what it is, a slick thriller loaded with over-the-top superhero action.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It is what it is, a slick thriller loaded with over-the-top superhero action. It should do the money-making Die Hard franchise proud, as it did in the 1990s when the series, which began in 1988, was at its peak. The 52-year-old Bruce Willis is still the Man, but is seemingly less egotistical and easier to tune into in his more mellow mood swing; his self-deprecating humor and the great stunt work turned in for the far-out action scenes (thanks should go to stunt coordinator Brad Martin), turn this into a watchable escapist pic that surprisingly seems fresh (maybe because the last one was some twelve years ago, “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” and since then most of the blockbuster action pics were all CGI efforts). In any case, it’s as pleasant and empty-headed an experience as munching on cotton candy on a warm sunny day. To avoid any controversy, the terrorists in the film directed by Len Wiseman (“Underworld”/ “Underworld: Evolution”) are not even Muslim Arabs. The film instead plays on America’s fear over terrorism and computer nerd geniuses who can hack into any secure system, even “mutating algorithmic security codes.” Mark Bomback turns in the juiced-up implausible screenplay from the magazine story he cowrote with David Marconi.
The plot has the no-nonsense, bald, unshaven, divorced, gruff NYPD detective, John McClane (Bruce Willis), called at 3am by his cop superior, where he’s on the Rutgers-Camden campus to see his estranged daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and prevent her from getting felt up by her date, that he should do a favor for the FBI and bring to Washington a computer hacker named Matt Farrell (Justin Long) living in Camden. This turns into no cake walk assignment, as McClane heroically rescues the young computer hacker from a horde of machine-gun wielding and helicopter flying assassins and then must fend off becoming road kill during gridlock in Washington. Reaching the FBI headquarters, he learns from the sober-minded deputy director of the cyber division, Bowman (Cliff Curtis), that the country is under a cyber attack. It’s up to McClane to supply the brawn and Matt the techie brains (who gave the baddies an initial assist by offering them his services to startup their “firesale” hacker software, designed to take down everything in the country run by computers) in tracking down who is behind this security breach of all the vital ‘homeland security’ systems in the country that include transportation, Wall Street, the power grid that controls the entire Eastern corridor and nuclear facilities. The head baddie is Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a white American, who is pissed his rep was ruined when no one in Washington believed him, even after his demo proved to the Pentagon brass how easy it was to penetrate even its most secure military sites. With hottie Asian ninja gal Mai (Maggie Q) at his side, a sneering and crazed Gabriel plans to bring America to its knees and take for himself a healthy chunk of money–which he sees as a reward for his patriotism being spurned by the Washington bureaucrats.
Some of the highlighted Bruce action sequences include the hard-nosed cop using his flying car to take down a helicopter because he “ran out of bullets,” in a fight to the death in an elevator shaft with the ninja babe while they both cling to an SUV and spectacular computer graphics used to showoff our hero warding off an attack from a F-16 while he’s driving a truck.
Kevin Smith has a decent supporting role as a nerdy computer whiz setting up a “command post” in his nagging mom’s basement.
REVIEWED ON 6/28/2007 GRADE: B-